The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris

Published: 2015

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 352 pages

Setting: Dublin in 1919 to New York City to Alcatraz in 1937

Interest: It was selected as one of the She Reads books for the winter. You can see all the reviews for winter here. I was provided a review copy of the book as part of the She Reads network, but my review is completely my opinion.

Summary: Shan Keagan is an orphan living with his alcoholic uncle. Shan manages to convince his uncle life would be better in America. When his uncle dies at the end of the voyage to American, Shan gets adopted into the Capello family to get past immigration. The Capellos wouldn’t dream of letting Shan live on the streets, so he gradually takes the place (and name) of their dead son, Tommy. Shan/Tommy goes into the plumbing business with Mr. Capello, but Nick (his adopted brother) starts working for the mob, running liquor, gambling, and eventual extortion. A fight between Nick and Shan over a girl send Shan away on the vaudeville circuit. He comes home to try to help Nick get clean, but instead, Nick gets shot during a bank robbery and Shan is sent to jail. Shan eventually ends up on Alcatraz where Nick (who didn’t actually die) eventually helps him escape.

Final thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book. I loved the setting. Watching Shan grow up as an immigrant in NYC in the roaring 20s and living as an Italian, instead of one of those awful Irishmen, was interesting. McMorris provided an interesting viewpoint on the question of identity as well. The time Shan spends in jail, though, seems almost like a different novel. She starts out the book with a bit about Shan in Alcatraz, so I spend the first half of the book just waiting for him to get there. It took away from the story she was telling. Shan being sent to jail is such a sudden change in this story, which is realistic, but I still had a hard time buying it. The trial seemed rushed to get Shan to jail and then to Alcatraz, where the story picked up again.

Title comes from: Shan’s life was always on the edge of getting lost in violence and isolation, but he always managed to pull back.

Reading challenges fulfilled: an E in my title Reading the Alphabet Challenge and #8 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

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Scavengers by Shannon Peavey

Published: 2013 in Writers of the Future Volume 29, edited by Dave Wolverton

Genre: fantasy

Length: 52 pages

Setting: a small town in a world with 1800s technology

Interest: It was published in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Mara was raised to protect her town by shooting any harvesters that might stumble upon their town. Her eyesight went bad when she was 16 so her sister, Keera, had to take over her role as protector. Mara’s eyes are being treated by the Lady of the town, a half-vulture/half-woman hybrid who lives in a house above the rest of the town. When two men stray too close to the town and are killed, Keera leaves the town to see why they were coming. Turns out the Lady gains energy through death and has purposefully isolated the small town as a food source. When Keera comes back, the Lady disguises her and she is killed by Mara. Mara also figures out the Lady’s secret, with the help of one of the Lady’s clockwork finches.

Final thoughts: A perfectly acceptable story, if nothing exciting. I do wonder why the finch, who was one of the Lady’s creations, would turn on the Lady and help Mara figure out her secret. The Lady must have known that at some point her secret would get out. You can’t isolate a whole town from the rest of the world forever. Making Mara kill her sister just increases the risk that Mara starts prying. Of course, once Keera left the town, the Lady was just on damage control and really had no choice.

Title comes from: I’m going to guess it relates to the fact that the Lady was part vulture and therefore a scavenger of dead things. She apparently got her food from dead people.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Weekly Wrap-Up: This and That

It’s a new month so we started a new topic. We’re learning about the Constitution, but most of the books I requested haven’t made it to the library. So, I’ve got a random collection of books we used this week.

Our local library had one interesting book on the Constitution, We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Peter Spier. Spier illustrated the preamble to the Constitution and then concludes the book with some background on the writing of the Constitution. He ends with the full text of the Constitution and all its amendments.

Next up is a book I picked up for Fun Math Friday. I was looking for some inspiration for Fun Math Friday and found Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis. Lewis took poems like Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven or Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and, using the format of the original poem, turns it into a math word problem. We read the original poem and then the math poem and then solved the problem (the answers are upside down at the bottom of the page). The problems aren’t difficult, but the poems are fun.

And finally, Miss Adventure asked for a book on where words come from. The library couldn’t find the book we used last time we looked at etymology, Camp Fossil Eyes: Digging for the Origins of Words, so instead I found Abracadabra to Zombie: More Than 300 Wacky Word Origins by Don and Pam Wulffson. This book is exactly what Miss Adventure was looking for. She can’t read it without sharing pretty much everything. Even Mr. Curiosity was getting in on the fun. This book is full of all kinds of tidbits, put in alphabetical order so you can find them more easily.

And those were the books we used this week. Linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-Up.

Weekly-Wrap-Up

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The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

Published: 1951

Genre: science fiction

Length: 218 pages

Setting: various planets, far future

Interest: I pick the book up at a used book store. I had never heard of it, but I figured I was safe with Isaac Asimov.

Summary: Biron Farrill thinks he’s about to be assassinated by the ruling Tyranni. To save himself, he goes to Rhodia and throws himself on the mercy of their ruler. Before being turned over to the Tyranni, he escapes and attempts to find a revolt world. Ultimately, he gets the girl and finds a safe haven.

Final thoughts: I could tell this book was written in the early days of science fiction. Not because of dated technology – that was fine. More because of dated male-female interactions. Biron always wanted to control Artemisia and Artemisia was helpless and afraid in several key situations. I did appreciate the fact that the important, subversive document they were searching for all along was the Constitution.

Technically this is the first book in the Galactic Empire series, although it is set significantly before the next book in the series, Pebble in the Sky.

Title comes from: A poem Biron quoted early in the book when he first went into space

Reading challenges fulfilled: none because this is a review of a book read in a previous year

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Published: 2014

Genre: middle grade adventure fiction

Length: 433 pages

Setting: various locations within the Pirate Stream

Interest: I saw it reviewed somewhere recently and it sounded like something the kids would enjoy so I requested it. It looked interesting enough I decided to read it as well.

Summary: We follow the story of two kids, Fin, an orphan living in Khaznot Quay, and Marrill, a girl from our world, until their lives intersect. Fin has the dubious talent of being forgotten as soon as he’s out of sight. That makes him a great thief, but he can never make a friend. Marrill has lived a life of high adventure until her mother gets sick. She meets the wizard Ardent when a branch of the Pirate Stream strands his ship, the Kraken, in her world. Ardent is looking for the pieces to the Map to Everywhere. Marrill gets on board his ship and then can’t go home until they find the map. Marrill meets Fin in Kaznot Quay& discovers she has the unique ability of remembering who Fin is. Fin joins the crew of the Kraken trying to escape the Oracle, who is also trying to find all the pieces of the map. Unfortunately, the Oracle wants the Map to bring about the end of the world. So, the new crew of the Kraken have to work together to save the world.

Final thoughts: High quality adventure fiction. I love the idea of someone who can’t be remembered. How lonely that would be! And then Marrill can remember Fin and he doesn’t know how to act. He’s very good at introducing himself, but has never had to retain a relationship. There’s lots of adventures and interesting creatures and scenery to keep you reading, plus the regular addition of humor. If you pay attention to the art at the beginning of each chapter, you’ll get a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.

Title comes from: The plot was centered around finding the Map to Everywhere. Marrill needs it to go home. Fin needs it to find his mother. The Oracle wants it to fulfill a prophecy and end the world. Ardent wants it to keep the Oracle from getting it.

Reading challenges fulfilled: an M in my title Reading the Alphabet Challenge and #7 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

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A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

Published: 1972

Genre: nonfiction memoir

Length: 246 pages

Setting: mostly Crosswicks, Connecticut, before the 70s

Interest: I saw the book reviewed by The Modern Mrs. Darcy in a post about memoirs. I loved L’Engle’s books as a child and the post reminded me I haven’t read much of her adult fiction, and I didn’t even know she had nonfiction books out there. Continue reading

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Rex by Joe R. Lansdale

Published: 2013 in Rayguns Over Texas

Genre: science fiction short story

Length: 5 pages

Setting: present day, in a small town

Interest: I was provided a copy of the anthology and I’m slowly reviewing all the stories in it.

Summary: Benny, a young boy, sees an alien ship crash nearby. He goes to investigate with his dog, Rex. Benny sends the dog in to kill the alien, but abandons both when things go south at the spaceship. The alien takes over the body of Rex and enacts revenge on Benny.

Final thoughts: I was not impressed. The kid was a snot who uncharacteristically left his dog in an alien ship because he was suddenly afraid. You can’t make the case early in the story that he loves his dog and then just run away. The ending was lame as well. At least it was quick. At only five pages long, I didn’t invest much of my time.

Title comes from: The name of the dog

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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